Are you prepared to get inordinately excited about watching a grown man lightly jog from about three hundred feet away?
Well, get there, because Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune caught some video of Kyle Schwarber doing some light running drills at Wrigley Field before Monday’s series opener against the Reds, and it’s very exciting. [Brett: I completely agree. This made me very happy. We, uh, are probably not OK.]
No, not because it means there’s a surprise October return on tap, but instead because the sight strongly suggests his original Spring Training 2017 timeline is still on schedule.
The drill was simple enough – Schwarber was running figure-eights around a few cones in left field – but the implications are much broader. According to President Theo Epstein, Schwarber may play some winter ball if he’s 1) medically cleared and 2) feeling healthy and up for it.
In that regard, things are looking good.
Schwarber indicated that the drills on Monday went well and that he’s actually been doing them for about two to three weeks. His knee feels great (“sturdy,” as he put it) and he’s going to keep up with his drills and rehab going forward. From there, playing some winter ball can be hugely important – perhaps more so than just his physical readiness for Spring Training.
We tend to forget, when it comes to Kyle Schwarber, that he has played in just 71 games at the Major League level, after spending less than a full year in the Minor Leagues. He’s not a proven veteran slugger, making his way back from an injury to continue mashing. He’s barely more than a rookie, who was injured at the very start of what was to be his first full MLB season.
His eventual return and success with the Cubs, then, is not just about being healthy. He may have to make some adjustments and continue to deal with serious developmental hurdles throughout next season. Remember, Schwarber was slashing just .208/.352/.389 in September 2015, before a monster showing in the playoffs. I have no doubt he can be the guy he was for nearly all of his time in MLB, but it probably won’t be immediate.
Playing a little winter ball can help shake off the dust from injury, sure, but it can also speed up the development process quite a bit, so that he’s closer to where he was in 2015 at the start of 2017. Remember, the typical winter ball options – the Dominican Winter League and the Venezuelan Winter League – are very serious, professional leagues, full of quite a bit of talent. It’s not MLB, but it’s not backyard ball either.
Before he can get into winter action, though, he’ll have to get healthy. To get healthy, he’ll have to run drills in the outfield grass of Wrigley Field, clearly. But since he’s already done that, I guess you can say he’s on track.